In early September the queen of southern relationship novels passed away suddenly. Dorothea Benton Frank was a prolific writer of more than 25 books, most taking place in the lowcountry of South Carolina, her favorite place to be. Raised in Charleston and on Sullivan's Island, Dottie Frank moved to New Jersey after her marriage. She retained her very southern roots in her heart and books.
Dottie's books were snarky funny, poignant, and very real. She wrote the way she spoke - so if you have ever read her, you know exactly how she sounded in real life. I had the opportunity to listen to her on several occasions and absolutely enjoyed her irreverent and spot-on humor. Listening to her (as well as reading her books) was like talking to a best friend, college roommate, or co-worker. She was that personal and her books reflect it.
I did not go to her funeral in Charleston, which her family made open to all who wished to attend. I'm sure they knew how her fans would be grieving for her, a big sister with a clever tale and brilliant repartee. I can't help but think of her and Pat Conroy hanging out in heaven regaling everyone with their storytelling.
With so many wonderful books, it is really hard to pick out which ones are the best. The selection here is truly individual but I don't think you can go wrong with any of them. Here then, are some of my favorite of her books,
Sullivan's Island - This was her first book and, according to Dottie, was prompted when she was made the executor of her mother's estate. Her siblings wanted to sell their childhood home on Sullivan's Island, Frank wanted to keep it. She asked her husband if they could buy it and he was reluctant because of the distance from New Jersey. Dottie put on her "big girl" panties and wrote a book, the proceeds of which did allow her to buy a house on the island. The story revolves around land development on her island.
Pawley's Island - This is perhaps my favorite of her books as it is laugh out loud funny. It is a story of friendship and love in the lowcountry and, if you live here, you'll be able to recognize the places she writes about. Abigail Thurman has a pretty uneventful life playing golf and hanging out with her best friend Huey Valentine. When Rebecca Sims wanders into their lives, things change. Finding out about Rebecca's past helps Abigail and Huey to deal with their own lives.
The Christmas Pearl - Southern Gothic as its best and funniest. Theodora's very dysfunctional family is back with her to celebrate Christmas in Charleston. Theodora at 93 is having a difficult time putting up with any of them and wishes she had Pearl, the stern black maid the family had in the 30's. She is sure Pearl would put them all in their places. When Theodora's usual maid is called to a family emergency, she sends in a relative who is eerily just like Pearl. This is a terrific anytime story but especially fine at Christmas.
Same Beach, Next Year - A chance meeting years ago on the Isle of Palms created friends of two couples and their children. Being there for each other through thick and thin is always a hope but, how many couple friendships can withstand the test of time? Add to the mix that the husband of one couple and the wife of the other were sweethearts years ago. This is a delightful story with a few twists and turns.
By Invitation Only - Mix a lowcountry peach family with a family of investment bankers from Chicago and there is only one place for this story to go. Diane, a single mom, is the opposite of her son Fred's fiance's family. She is clever, down to earth, hardworking and well, southern. Diane can't play in the world of sophistication and wealth and has no interest in doing so. How this story plays out as the wedding plans evolve will give you a laugh and make you think about what is important in life.
Here is a direct link to her website - http://dotfrank.com/
Do you have a favorite Dorothea Benton Frank book? Please share it with me.